Shaming Women

I recently watched the first two of the Atlas Shrugged trilogy. I loved how the decor and much of the clothing was very Art Deco, but the story itself is set just two years in the future. Well, started just two years in the future, anyway. I think someone had a lot of fun with that.

The story itself, much like the Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo and Juliet is very true to its source yet set in a different time. Unlike Shakespeare, though, this one blends pretty well. Unfortunately, there were unintended bits that wouldn’t raise eyebrows when the book was written in the 1950’s, but still apply in 2014. The one that really struck me was the reaction to the proof of infidelity.

For those who haven’t read the book or seen one of the movies, the government is pressuring Henry Rearden to give up the patents to a metal alloy he created that is putting regular steel to shame. He is a married man, and to turn up the heat, the government official shows him pictures of himself and Dagny Taggart, a woman who is not his wife. The most scandalous thing they’re doing is sharing kisses, but they do look very happy in the picture that has them walking hand-in-hand.

I don’t imagine you’ll suffer much, since your wife already knows . . . but, I can’t say the same for Miss Taggart, one of the most respected business women in the nation. Spotless reputation, a source of inspiration to young girls all across the country.

I don’t have a copy of the book, so I can’t compare it to the actual text, but that does seem pretty 1950’s, so I’m guessing it’s close. The problem is, I can also see it being said now. The person cheating? Eh, whatever, he’s a man. The person he’s cheating with? That whore! That homewreaker! She should be ashamed of herself and can’t be looked up to anymore as an inspiration!

That’s actually a pretty standard reaction to a situation where a married man cheats. Was it Bill Clinton who was shamed for the Cigar Incident? No. What about Brad Pitt? It was all that hussy Angelina Jolie’s fault. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single cheating man who got as much or more blame than the woman he cheated with. If I remember correctly, though, Kristen Stewart got all sorts of blame for cheating on Robert Pattinson.

The problem with this situation is that it takes two to tango. Dagny and Rearden fell in love because they were well suited to each other in a world that didn’t take kindly to either. It was mutual. Bill Clinton is pretty well recognized as a flirt and possibly a womanizer (or as much of one as Hilary lets him get away with). I doubt his affair with Monica Lewinski was one-sided. Kristen Stewart? I haven’t heard anyone suggest that she was seduced by the director and then given the movie role to keep her quiet.

Cheating is bad, but the one-sided shaming is worse. If a man who cheats can still be considered a hero (JFK comes to mind), then why can’t a woman? Or have we still not moved past a woman’s sexual fidelity being a very large part of her worth? When I think of our First Lady, the first thing that comes to mind is her arms, and how awful people think it is that she wears sleeveless blouses. After that comes her organic garden on the White House grounds and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. When I think of her husband, it’s his political wins and losses that come first. Somewhere down the line, way down the line, is that he pulls off polo shirts really well. There’s something wrong with giving what a woman does with her body the same level of importance as what a man does with his mind.

Why are women still bearing the shame for something that happens between consenting adults? Why are we permitting it? Why are men allowing it? If we are going to shame cheaters, then we need to shame the parties as they have earned it. Or, we need to rethink why we need to shame anyone.

Abortion in the News, Again

Rather than doing things like helping us get ready for another fire season or figuring out how to manage the damage the floods have done to our aging infrastructure, our legislature has decided to debate personhood. Again. Because that’s a totally awesome and useful way to spend the time we pay them to serve us.

What I got out of the article was this link found in the comments from a person who is pro-life due to religion. This whole debate drives me crazy, so let’s go ahead and address it. Let’s sit and think about each point the article brings up.

1. Abortion Offends God

I’ve heard this. Children, no matter how they arrive, are a gift from God and should be treasured. Well, if your God is giving gifts via rape and incest or sending gifts when the recipient can’t afford to keep it, it kind of makes him look like a jerk. Just like it’s rude to give a puppy to someone who can’t afford to take it to a vet, it’s rude to give a child to a person who can’t afford to take it to the doctor. On the subject of gods- I think abortion offends your God. You never asked what my God might think of it, did you? (Damn that religious freedom thing.)

2. The Unnoticed War

“By destroying the most basic human bond of all—that between mother and child—abortion dissolves the precious glue that binds our nation together.”

I think this man has never seen the interaction between a mother and an unwanted child. That is what will undo the fabric of society. A woman who chooses to have an abortion will have emotional scars from it. I don’t think anyone has seriously thought otherwise. However, they are all her own. A woman who is forced to bear and raise a child she doesn’t want (for whatever reason) is passing scars onto the child. A child who will have trouble loving. A child who will have trouble making meaningful connections. A child who will scar others as it grows. Also, do we really need the 56 million Americans this “war” has claimed in the last 41 years? Aren’t we having enough trouble employing the ones we’ve got?

3. Life starts at the moment of conception

This is from Other Helpful Facts at the bottom: “The unborn baby’s heart starts beating at 20 days4 and the brain gives off brainwaves at 40 days. If these factors are used by the law to determine death, why can’t they be used to determine life?”

Sir, either life begins at conception, or it begins when the brain and heart are running. Pick one. I would also like to point out that it is some time before the fetus can survive outside the womb (21 weeks, according to him). Prior to that, it is not a person. It is a parasite. A person can survive outside of an environment that is perfectly suited to nurture it. This also brings to light the question of miscarriages, or spontaneous abortions. If a woman’s body rejects a fetus at some point, is she guilty of murder? I suppose no more than involuntary manslaughter since she didn’t try it. Almost every woman I know that has had a child has had at least one miscarriage. And you think our jails are full now . . .

4. Mankind must protect life whenever possible

Says the religious group that seems to love war and the death penalty.

5. Abortion is unsafe

“Compared with other medical procedures, the abortion industry is largely unregulated. Although there are no exact statistics for the number of women who die from botched procedures, compiled a list of 347 women killed by legal abortions since 1973.2

Fair enough, it is highly unregulated. Mostly because we can’t all seem to agree that it’s allowed to exist. Note that he didn’t address the number of deaths caused by illegal abortions in places where they can’t get a legal one. Because they do and always have happened whether it’s legal or not. Possibly because without regulation, we can’t track them. To provide a number of my own, between 2006 and 2009 there were 2,689 pregnancy-related deaths in America. It also appears that the likelihood of maternal death is increasing. I wonder how many lives those legal abortions might have saved . . .

6. A biogenetic Tower of Babel

I’m really not sure how cloning is a problem with abortion. Stem cells probably do make things easier, but I’m quite sure we could continue on that path without them.

7. Breaking the abortion cycle

“Abortion is a sin that perpetuates evil. The abortion mentality destroys the family by making it more difficult for new Americans who survive beyond the womb to find the family welded together by the indissoluble bond of marriage solely between a man and a woman. Children need families that will nurture them, guard their innocence and develop their personalities. In particular, all children must find within their homes the Faith that enables them to know, love and serve God in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next. As long as the traditional family remains in crisis, we will never sever the power lines that supply the abortion mills. As long as the Faith remains dead in souls, we will never wipe out the moral rot of sexual immorality, which is the contaminated soil where the abortion movement grows and flourishes.”

Holy Mother of Pearl. Really? A woman who’s had an abortion can’t love and nurture other children? An abortion will dissolve a marriage? (Sometimes they do, but sometimes they save them.) Only the sexually immoral ever seek abortions? (Way to victim-blame.) I will bring this up again: your Faith, your God- not mine. I was raised in a happy home where my parents were still married to their first spouse, my innocence was nurtured, and we did not partake in your style of Faith. I was also raised to be pro-choice because I chose to  be, and to embrace my sexuality. The horror!

8. Roe v. Wade: 40 Years of Lies

Yep, more abortions were performed than people were killed in Hitler’s Germany. However, an abortion is performed on a fetus and releases the fully-realized mother from the burden of bearing and raising it. Hitler killed fully-realized humans. There is a difference.

9. Addressing an abortionist

“You were once an enchanting child, as all babies are. Today you are an abortionist, a killer of babies. Do you not regret your wicked deeds? Do you not see the innocent blood of our children that stains your hands and cries out to God? Have you no shame as did our first parents when they sinned against God? Why do you not turn to Him today, seek His forgiveness and His strength never again to murder the innocent? Would you not rather bring children into the world than destroy them? Children you could raise with respect for life to take the place of those you robbed from God?”

Addressing and anti-abortionist: You are the child of a woman, as all children are. Today, you are an oppressor of women, a stealer of choice. Do you not regret your wicked deeds? Do you not see the innocent lives of our women who are given no other worth than that which they bear? Have you no shame for stealing the same choices your mother had? Why do you not turn to her today, to seek her forgiveness, and her strength, and to never presume to take a woman’s choices from her? Would you not rather protect the women of this world than destroy them? Women who will have the knowledge and ability to make the choices that you would rob from them?

10. The slippery slope

“Yesterday it was contraception. Today it’s abortion and same-sex “marriage.” Will it be widespread euthanasia tomorrow? Then what…? Once abortion is universally accepted, what logical arguments will stop euthanasia and other forms of murder and brutality?”

That slope slips both ways. Today it’s rejecting abortion and same-sex marriage. Will it be forcing women back into dresses tomorrow? Then what? Once abortion is rejected, what logical arguments will there be against restraining a woman to keep an unwanted pregnancy? Impregnating lesbians because that’s all they’re good for? Will she have any rights to argue for by then?

I’ve had running through my head “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 20:21. Inserting things that offend your God into government rules is stepping on Caesar’s toes. If this is going to be fought, it must be fought with facts, not faith. 300 women dying in 40 years of abortion is a very weak fact to base your case on.

The other thing that pro-lifers forget, or overlook, is that just because abortion is legal, that doesn’t mean it’s required. We assume that a woman (or, in the case of an under-age pregnancy, her parents) are adults and capable of thinking through serious decisions. If she chooses to have an abortion, she has a safe, regulated way to do so. If it’s not legal, she may choose to have one anyway and won’t have a safe way to do so. However, it is also the woman’s right to choose to keep the child. If her faith, or her conscience, or her heart tell her to keep it, she has that choice.

Yes, I Am Difficult

I have pretty much always recognized that I’m not the easiest person to deal with. I’m totally worth the effort, but if you are really going to get to know me, you will have to put forth some effort. For a long time, I tried to hide or balance that fact by having a very pleasant, easy-to-like personality for more shallow interactions. Are you the girlfriend of the week of one of my male friends? I’ll be nice and stuff, but that’s a surface interaction for me. We are unlikely to ever get to know each other because you just won’t stick around long enough. This happens to apply to a lot of coworkers and friends of friends. Why? Because it’s easier for me to put up a facade in those cases than to be me. Getting to know me takes effort on your part- and on mine. I’m only going to expend it if I think it’s worth the energy I have to muster for it. Lately, though, the facade has gotten annoying outside of required interactions. If you’re not going to like me for who I am, then why should I foster the relationship?

I’m explaining this because as a woman on a particular social site, I get a fair amount of unsolicited friend requests. I’m not so inundated that I can’t read them all, but I am choosy about those I accept. I like internet friends, so being from another city or state isn’t a reason to be rejected. However, being boring or potentially dangerous is a reason to be rejected. When an unsolicited friend request comes in, I go and check out the profile. After all, maybe the sender is shy or isn’t the best with language, so they’re silently asking me to start the interaction. If the profile is interesting, I’ll probably accept. If it’s empty, and you haven’t sent me a note to catch my interest, you’ll be rejected.

Some time ago I got a friend request with a pretty empty profile that looked suspiciously familiar. It still offered nothing of interest, so it got rejected. Again, I’m pretty sure. The next day, I again got a friend request without any sort of note. The profile still hadn’t been improved. This time, I rejected it and sent him a note:

“Dude. I have said no because you have given me absolutely no reason to say yes. Give me a reason to say yes or piss the fuck off.”

His response:

“Ok …I like talking to nicer people, so bye :)”

Was my note as polite as maybe it could have been? Nah. But that’s because on strike three, the rejection has to be stepped up. Clearly he wasn’t accepting the polite rejection of not accepting the friend request. Please note that I did give him yet another chance to redeem himself. Had he come back with something smart/funny/interesting, he might have gotten further attention from me. Instead, he chooses to decide that I’m the difficult one.

Boring is pretty easy to spot, but potentially dangerous can be more difficult. I was having an online conversation with a guy that was charming and interesting, but occasionally I got a red-flaggish hint. When he pushed for us to meet, I declined. I couldn’t say exactly why, but I was not comfortable and I told him so. He continued to insist while insisting that he wasn’t insisting. That lack of acknowledgement did make a red flag pop up. Then he confirmed that he wasn’t all that good at respecting boundaries. That, in and of itself is bad enough. Considering some of the claims he was making in his profile, that was scary. Right about then I cut contact.

I did reach out to him once after that, but promptly realized I’d made a mistake and let him know that I was cutting contact again because I shouldn’t have resumed it in the first place. He has since sent me a lot of notes. Folks, when you’re getting notes like that from someone who has triggered red flags- hold on to them. Hopefully he won’t escalate into full-blown stalking, but if he does, I want a paper trail.

The note that confirmed that I had made the right decision asked me to “just bend a bit and meet [him]” because he’s not ignoring my fears, he’s “just trying to help [me] get over some of them.” Maybe some of my fears are irrational, but that’s not his decision to make. The only time boundaries should be crossed and fears bypassed is if the person with the boundaries and fears believes it needs to happen. I firmly believe that someone that can’t respect boundaries will never be the person to change mine.

I freely admit that I am difficult. I am difficult because I have no other choice. I am difficult, because that’s what a woman gets called when she doesn’t meekly accept compliments she doesn’t want, or friend requests with no substance. I am difficult because I have boundaries and I am learning that I am the only person who will defend them. I am difficult because I am a woman who is rediscovering her self-worth and is willing to defend it and the world doesn’t seem to like that.

I am difficult, and I am ok with that.

I’m Not That Messed Up

I’ve been working on a project inspired by the phenomenon sweeping our nation called 50 Shades of Twilight. (I know that technically they’re two different stories, but we all know they aren’t.) I’ve been combing through both series to pull out the pertinent plot points. (Stop laughing- I have to call the scenes something.) I’ve been working for quite a while now to weave them together into some sort of cohesive story. (Also, to add a plot- still working on that.) This was first inspired after reading 50 Shades of Grey and hearing that this story was touted as an adult romance to aspire to. We’ve all heard that. Christian Grey is the new Sean Connery or something? (Sorry, Christian- without the accent, you don’t stand a chance. I don’t care how tousled your hair is.)

My brain started working, changing the story, asking what if as a good writer always does. What it came up with was: What if a real-life person did meet and fall in love with a real-life Ice Prince? What would really happen in a relationship with the sort of man girls (Twilight) and women (50SoG) are being told to attach themselves to? What would happen if the Ethnic Friend (don’t tell me you don’t know who that is) was actually called on trying to force his affections on her?

I had just finished the 50 Shades series when I started this, and I re-read the first two in the Twilight series. Ok, I thought, I have this. Jose was exaggerated from Jacob when he assaulted the female lead. I can tone it back down a bit because, honestly, of all the characters, I like Jacob the best. He can be a bit of an idiot, but he’s a 16-year-old boy. Also, while a lot of Edward’s behavior is really not ok, he is a 100-year-old vampire with his first girlfriend. Which makes Christian worse, since Christian is supposed to be wholly human and raised in contemporary circumstances. 50 Shades of Grey really is the worse example- and not just because of the writing.

Then I started reading the Sporkings of Twilight. Oh dear god. (Careful about clicking on that link if you have anywhere you need to be in the next few days. It’s a little addictive.) I knew that I’d read just the surface when I was reading the books, and I’d still quit the first time after reading New Moon. For the second go-round, I actually switched from Team Jacob to Team Edward when reading New Moon. Edward deserved Bella. Jacob was something of an idiot, but he still deserved better. After all, he had the potential to outgrow the idiocy.  Apparently my brain had just shut out everything that happened in Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.

For the sporkings, counts are kept of the most egregious problems. A new one was added just for Eclipse. It was called “I’m Gonna Rape You” and it tallied whenever a character did something that was easily read as rape-tastic. The final count? 152. The only reason it didn’t come in as the highest count is because it tied with You Racist Bastards. There was one scene, though, that really made me start to re-think whether or not I was up to the task of dealing with these characters. I think I’ll leave this in the hands of das-mervin. (Trigger warning for that link.)

I just . . . I can’t . . . I think I’m going to stick with ignoring everything that happens in Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. There are a couple of things that I must include, like the baby, and maybe the bruising sex, but I’m going to admit that there are things I just can’t write. I can’t write that many genuinely screwed up characters. And I can’t write a male romantic interest that thinks it’s ok to rape his girl into loving him. I can’t turn an awkward, but generally likeable, character into that big of a douche.

I’m starting to think that I’m not messed up enough to write in the “tradition” of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. I’d say that was a good thing if I wasn’t sort of hoping for an insta-best-seller.

Goodbye Earl

I wanted to finish this month, rather literally at the eleventh hour, on a musical note. Music is something that is in all of our lives to some extent or another. Not everyone sings or plays, but I think I can say that everyone reading this post at the very least is subject to the jingles in advertisements. Something that is that ubiquitous is going to be something that affects our world views. People talk a lot about how rap is very anti-female. I’m not going to argue the point. However, that is far from the only genre, and only topic, that is influenced by the lyrics that are written and sung.

When I was in high school, the song Goodbye Earl came out. This was before the Dixie Chicks managed to alienate their fan base by having the audacity to have an unpopular political opinion, so it was heard. A lot. I really liked it. However, when I mentioned that fact to a male friend, he was appalled. He thought it was a horrible song and how could I possibly condone that behavior? Was I planning something like that for a significant other? Somehow, telling him that all he had to do was not act like Earl to save himself from such a fate was not reassuring to him. To this day I don’t understand why that answer isn’t ok.

The other song that sprang to mind when I was thinking about this post happens to fall on the other end of the spectrum. It’s not nearly as popular, and more than once I wondered if I’d imagined it because I heard it so seldom. This one stuck in my brain because it’s so disturbing- and so accurate for many, many abused people.

I couldn’t remember the name of Luka when I was getting ready to write this, so I googled “songs about abused women.” Do it sometime. Be in awe of the number of posts that come up. I’m not going to list all of them, but I am going to list some of the ones that are familiar to me.

Martina McBride- Independence Day

Eminem- Kim (among others)

Green Day- Pulling Teeth

Pat Benatar- Hit Me With Your Best Shot

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus- Face Down

Kelly Clarkson- Because of You

There were also many others that, honestly, I need to listen to again before I can agree or disagree. Eminem’s songs tend to be pro abuse. Independence Day is about a woman getting some of her own back because no one was noticing anything. An interesting note is that in the description of that song and video it was pointed out that in the video the woman was shown to die in the fire, while the lyrics leave it ambiguous. They theorized that a woman can stand up for herself as long as she also goes down in the end.

You know, maybe that was my friend’s problem with Goodbye Earl. It ends with two women not only permanently taking care of an abusive asshole, but getting away with it and going on to live their lives. They had no comeuppance. Unfortunately, one of the things I’ve been learning about domestic violence is that more often than not, it’s Earl who never has a comeuppance. If either side has any right to getting away with something like that, it’s not Earl. More people need to understand this.

What Is Domestic Violence, Anyway?

We’ve all seen the posters and pictures of cowering women with black eyes and casts on broken bones. We’ve seen pictures of women placing themselves physically between their children and their abuser. Maybe pictures of older siblings taking the same stance to protect younger siblings.

So, if you aren’t bruised and don’t have any broken bones, that means you’re not being abused, right?


The legal definition of domestic violence is: Any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another can constitute domestic violence. In my mind, it really boils down to fear. If you are afraid of your spouse, significant other, parent, child, or caretaker, you might be in an abusive relationship. If they are using fear, either through words or actions, to control you, it is abuse.

I have come across discussions about whether or not to spank your children. Opinions, of course, range from “spare the rod, spoil the child” to pearl-clutching horror that you could even think such a thing! The discussion usually involves talking about what crosses the line from discipline to abuse. A pretty standard answer is that if you are hitting them in anger, it’s abuse.

The problem with that is that I have been spanked and paddled in anger. I was not abused. I do not fear my parents now, and I never feared them as a child. Sure, they could be scary if they were pissed off. I come by my temper honestly. It wasn’t fun to piss them off- but that was because there were consequences to my actions, not because I had any fear of being hurt or worse. On the rare occasions I was spanked or paddled in anger it was because I was either being an unreasonable and unbearable brat or I’d scared them silly. In either case, it was a reaction to get me to see that my behavior was not acceptable and would have very uncomfortable repercussions. It was, in the end, an attempt to help make me a better person and a better citizen because I would think twice before being an unbearable brat or doing things that scare the people that care about me.

In an abusive situation, when the abuser is hitting the victim they may well be red in the face, veins popping, and otherwise exhibiting signs of anger or rage. However, in most cases if the phone rings or someone knocks on the door, the abuser can speak to the non-victim in a perfectly calm, rational manner. I don’t know about you, but when I’m pissed, and I get interrupted in the middle of being pissed, I’m going to be less than calm with the person on the phone or at the door. Why? Because real, genuine anger doesn’t dissipate that fast. Which means that the abuser probably wasn’t angry. What they were doing was using physical (or mental, or sexual) aggression to cow the victim. It’s very easy to hide that behind phrases like “I just lost it” or “I went crazy for a minute.”

Spanking is something that I’m sort of on the fence about. I don’t think it’s automatically abuse, but I also don’t think it’s the most effective response. Possibly because it never worked that well on me. I don’t have children, but I do work with animals. Training the two is similar enough to be able to draw some parallels. Something that crosses species is that you get more out of an animal that is allowed to try things and make mistakes than you do from an animal that is so afraid of being wrong that they never try anything but the handful of responses that they have found to be “safe.” An animal that is allowed to try things, to experiment, and to make mistakes is going to test your boundaries and have opinions that you may not share. However, you are giving the animal the chance to develop as far as they are able to. An animal that is terrified of being wrong, usually because the punishments were way out of proportion to the crimes, is not going to test you. The other side of that lack of pushing boundaries is that the animal will never reach their full potential.

To bring it back to humans, I was allowed to push boundaries and make mistakes as a child. Sometimes those mistakes resulted in disciplinary measures because consequences are real. The discipline was never given in a way that would stop me from wanting to keep asking questions and growing, though. Today, I am a fully realized person with thoughts and opinions that my parents may not like. That’s ok, because they would rather have a whole daughter than an easy life. In an abusive relationship, it’s about an easy life, not a whole partner. The victim is hounded until they stop straying from the handful of “safe” answers. Those answers or actions are usually very good for the abuser and vary from neutral to bad for the victim.

So, are you being abused? Do you know someone who is in an abusive relationship and may not recognize it? Fear is not normal. Making everything all about one family member is not normal. Completely and perpetually bypassing your own needs to always cater to the needs of the other is not normal. Everyone changes small things as they grow with their partner, but in a healthy relationship, they are still able to grow and express themselves as an individual. Are you a fully-realized person, or have you shed all of those parts of your personality that annoy your significant other? Domestic violence seldom starts with black eyes and broken bones, but all too frequently it ends up there. Recognize it before it does.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Did you know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Yeah- neither did I. I know about Black History Month (February). Women’s History Month (March). Isn’t there even a Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Holy shit- that’s also October. No wonder we don’t know it’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pink ribbons and saving the ta-tas (ok, that idea was cute) is way sexier than talking about spouses abusing each other and their children. After all, abuse only happens to them, not to us. It only happens to poor people, or people with terrible tempers.

An estimated 1.3 million women are assaulted by an intimate partner annually. As women are only 85% of domestic violence victims, that means it’s really over 1.5 million assaults a year. How that does pale in the face of 232,340 cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed each year. One in eight women can expect to have invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. One in four can expect to experience domestic violence. While I don’t intend to belittle cancer, I do firmly believe that it is far from the only thing that endangers women, children, and men.

Most domestic violence statistics are read as female victims, male perpetrators. As stated above, 85% of the victims are female. I will probably also follow this trend because it makes writing easier (she is always the victim, he is always the perpetrator), and it is statistically probable. However, whenever possible, I will also mention the male victims. While getting rid of male-on-female violence is important, we also need to get rid of female-on-male violence and same-gender-violence. It’s only by eliminating all forms of partner and child abuse that we can make sure it doesn’t re-root itself.